Memorials tell a story about the past and how it affects the future.
Some memorials are straightforward. They’re a statue or maybe a monument that makes obvious who it honors. But there’s a new competition recently implemented by the National Park Service, National Planning Commission and Van Alen Institute called “Memorials for the Future.”
This competition encourages a re-evaluation of the way that memorials are designed and built, and how they honor the history and culture of the United States.
Memorials Aren’t Just for the Past
When you think about a memorial, the first and most obvious connection is a person who lived in the past or a historical event. But while these monuments honor the past, they’re designed for people who visit them now and who will visit them in the future.
The Van Alen Institute explains that while memorials should certainly reference the past, they should also look to the future. That’s one of the reasonings behind the reimagining of what memorials are, what they mean and their intended purpose.
Princess Diana’s Waterfall Memorial
One example of a memorial that breaks with tradition is the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Water Fountain in London. After the princess’s untimely and tragic death in 1997, many people around the world imagined a memorial that reflected her physical beauty and generosity of spirit.
However, the water fountain, which was designed as a winding, serpentine oval stream, gives the public a place for quiet contemplation with a view of changing water patterns that flow around. A statue would have been appropriate. But this avant-garde water fountain is a useful, beautiful fixture that people for generations to come can enjoy as more than just a monument.
The Memorials for the Future Competition
Competition submitters were asked to create designs that would be “woven into public spaces near the National Mall within the rapidly changing urban fabric of Washington, D.C.,” says Architect Magazine. Three competition finalists will be selected by a jury of 11 people, and each finalist will receive $15,000 toward research and design.
The competition winner will be announced this fall, as well as the results of the competition. Both the winning announcement and the results will be exhibited in D.C., says Architect. The final design will come to fruition through the efforts of the Van Alen Institute.
Each Memorials of the Future competition team consists of at least one designer, and the regulations state that he or she must be an artist, landscape architect, architect, planner or urban designer. In addition to design skills, the teams are asked to add at least one member who is gifted in the art of storytelling, commotion or the social sciences, according to Architect.
Architects help shape the world that we live in and commemorate the people and events of the past. That’s the thread that ties generations together. With this competition, more attention will be paid to generations to come instead of focusing only on history’s part of the human story.
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Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, by Eric Drost, via Flickr Creative Commons.